Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin on Tuesday signed a bill limiting on the governor's constitutional power to grant pardons, the culmination of an ongoing controversy surrounding a worker death in 1999.
Construction worker Gary Stone perished in an avalanche while building a hydropower dam. The company, Whitewater Engineering of Bellingham, Wash., blamed Stone for coming to work that day despite avalanche warnings. Whitewater was charged with criminal negligent homicide, largely for ignoring recommendations of a hired avalanche expert. Whitewater and its CEO were pardoned by Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski in 2006, days before the unpopular governor left office.
The bill forces a governor to contact the victim or victim's family before issuing a pardon. Murkowski did not notify the Stone family of his pardon.
Greater restrictions on pardons, also attributed to the Stone case, could be on their way. A bill submitted by Rep. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage, wants to require governors issuing pardons to certify to the attorney general whether they have personal or financial ties to someone being pardoned. No information has financially tied Whitewater to Murkowski.